Ala Wai residents concerned over field’s new lights

The baseball field at Ala Wai Park.

What was once a heavily-used park in the middle of Waikiki has sat virtually in the dark for several months now, closed for a major improvement project.

The Ala Wai Park features three fields, but the baseball field is getting a lot of work and attention from neighbors. For several months, the field has been undergoing a nearly $3 million makeover with crews installing a new electrical system to go with the new poles and close to 300 lights that the city says is necessary to play ball safely at night.

“They took down the old poles, they’re redoing the foundations and then they will put the poles back up,” said Mark Yonamine, deputy director, Dept. of Design and Construction.

The contractor is also responsible for getting the field back in shape. Once the lights are up, a landscaper will come in, lay new topsoil and grass, and then the baseball players will be back in action.

But the people who live at the Marco Polo nearby say the glare from the new lights will be more than just an eyesore.

“There’s enough ambient light from Waikiki alone,” said Schuyler Erlich, who lives in the nearby Marco Polo building. “We don’t need the additional bright light for a field lit that late at night.”

“I don’t know why the city is spending millions of dollars to put in stadium lighting that is going to be so bright,” said fellow resident Robert Lattimer. “That will affect our building and the buildings across the street and the traffic… Stadium lighting is overkill for a little local baseball grass park.”

To address the concerns about the glare, city officials say they install shields on the 288 new lights and those shields will help direct the light down onto the field and prevent what is referred to as loose light shining on the buildings nearby. They will also be able to shut off the lights immediately at night due to new technology that, with a simple call from a cell phone, will connect with the new electronics and signal the system to turn out the lights.

This technology is already in place at Wilson Park near Kahala.

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